When Will They Shoot?
Some months ago Diane Abbot made some comments on Twitter regarding the state of the “Black Community” in the United Kingdom and said community’s relationship to the nation. In the exchange Abbot replied to one tweeter’s comments expressing irritation towards the idea that a “black community” exists.
“White people love playing “divide & rule” We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism”
Abbot was rightly maligned for these, ironically, divisive comments. At their face value comments like this feed into the still effervescent tensions between the old race lines. It goes without saying that it is almost certainly true that Abbot is not a racist in the common way we think of the term, i.e. a person who genuinely hates someone of another race. However, it does reveal that Abbot, and many other black people, like many white people, of the older generation still harbour a great number of prejudices despite the respectable progress made in our society.
Now I know that SATT (we will brainstorm for a better acronym I promise) have covered racial relations a swathe of times since we opened up shop but I would like to think that this is more a reflection of our society than a reflection of our own collective fixation. Evidence of this I could say can personally be traced to my own reactions to recent, well publicised events.
This trail of events began with the hilariously offensive smattering of “tram experience’s”, which feature, and I’m fairly certain of this, one different member of the same family. I was fairly offended by the first video which surfaced, but once my juvenile sense of outrage subsided, I realised that I cared very little about people that the broader public could probably never convince of the benefits of Multicultural Britain.
The event which actually managed to rile me up for more than fifteen minutes was the circus that was the Klitschko v. Chisora post-match press conference, where as you all know David Haye and Derek Chisora clashed. The confrontation reached its appalling zenith when Chisora declared, multiple times for emphasis, that he would “shoot” David Haye. Now, I think we can safely say that this was not in the script (or perhaps had origins in the script of a gangster flick). Chisora is now at risk of a lifetime ban from a sport which should really have had him dump such apparently righteous principles.
I was, for the first time in a handful of moons, not faux-offended but actually offended. Why? Quite simply, it is disingenuous to pretend that they do not actually represent, to the public eye, a picture of what black men are about. We are already represented along those lines and both Haye and Chisora went out of their way (this was all easily avoidable) to etch that picture into a portrait. I felt betrayed by the two of them as, regardless of whether I like it or not, they represent the ‘black community’ Abbot alluded to.
There is no choice as to whether black people or even people of ethnic origin are grouped together. As the minority in this country we are a group by mere mention; those in the public eye do not need to be told this either. It makes me angry that I am, regardless of context or circumstance, represented by people such as David Haye and Derek Chisora. I am not personally affronted by either of them per se, but my feeling of anger can be traced to the reality of such community divisions.
Despite all of the progress that has been made white people might not be playing divide and rule, but we all actively indulge in promoting division. Individuals represent groups and we encourage this kind of blanket, spokesperson mentality. In the twitter exchange with Diane Abbot, the tweeter talked of her irritation in being represented by “black community leaders”. Black Londoners exist in fragments, dotted about in concentrated communities across the south and east. These communities are divided by all the requisite social factors down to odder ones (such as Church branch). It is clear that there can be no “spokesperson” for the entire community, and yet there is a broad form of community.
The idea of a Black community in the past was appropriate in a more singular Caribbean Diaspora which landed in Britain decades ago. This community, mirroring the Afro-American struggle of course benefited from a siege mentality; unity provided organisation and strength in social and political discourse. It is no surprise that following the steady stream of African migrants there is a sense of kinship. Yet, it is arguable whether such an approach is beneficial in our modern society.
The urge to make broad distinctions creates unity but has painted a black and white competition, where things are in actual fact far more complex. In the past it was seen as almost a necessity to bring together a “black community” and it probably still has its benefits today (in lieu of the still lingering inequalities). Nevertheless, I think we miss a semantic trick in re-ordering our thinking. The broad linguistic brush strokes we use to describe ourselves, and the language used to describe our communities by the indigenous British folk, help to unify us in our difference. Perhaps it is time we highlight the extent of our cultural differences to help juxtapose our broad similarities. We should all tread carefully in our ways of thinking with the aim in mind to avoid feeling represented by black males and black MPs or black leaders. We should reach for a global society where cultural lines might be recognised but where individual actions can stand alone in their wisdom or idiocy.
I am aware that this has descended (or ascended) into an unfocused treatise on our society and that this is a broad plan of sorts on the solutions. What is telling though is the complete lack of discourse on the topic. We are a long way from addressing the heart of the problem; wealth distribution.